Evacuees escaping the blitz arrive in Lewes by train while, in the present day, a group of teenagers in a refugee camp prepare to risk everything to complete their journey.

When Glyndebourne’s Young Composer-in-Residence, Lewis Murphy, and librettist Laura Attridge were tasked with creating a work that would put a large group of young people centre stage, they took their inspiration from a moment in Glyndebourne’s history – the house was home to evacuees during the war – and from the worldwide migrant crisis that’s within easy reach across the Channel.

Associated in the popular imagination with operatic glamour and champagne picnics on the lawns, Glyndebourne can seem a world away from war and conflict, but make no mistake, Belongings, marking 20 years of Glyndebourne’s Youth Opera, engages viscerally with the real lives of world politics, the unaccompanied, the lost.

Lewis Murphy’s accessible score cleverly mixes the community song feel of the 1940s with more contemporary resonances, so that the work’s earworm (rare in contemporary opera) ‘We won’t be there tomorrow, we’ll be there today,’ spans the generations as a prayer of comfort and hope. There is a truly heartbreaking chorus, as the evacauees write home ‘Dear Mum and Dad, please…’, in which Murphy takes ‘please’ and weaves it polyphonically, as if the word itself is trying to find its way home.

Not a classical story arc, but focusing instead on moments of interaction among the displaced, Belongings, with its sparse, shipping container set and stage full of roaming teenagers, is as provocatively open-ended as the transient lives it depicts.

Principals Rodney Earle Clarke, Leslie Davis and Nardus Williams provided dramatic anchorage, but the emotional potency was all the magnificent Glyndebourne Youth Opera Chorus.

Still think opera’s a world away? Think again.